Folk dance group „Dandari” creative camp in Lielvārde 22.09.17- 24.09.17
In their everyday life project participants participate in University of Latvia folklore group „Dandari”. The group offers to everyone of interest to practically get acquainted with Latvian folklore and traditional culture materials- annual celebrations, family traditions, a wide song, game, couple and many couple dance repertoire. The participants get acquainted and make (purchase) different region traditional costumes, which are used when performing, some use the chance to learn to play traditional music instruments. The participants of the ensemble regularly take part in performances- folklore concerts and festivals, traditional celebration performances in city environment, lead master classes and Latvian traditional culture presentations for foreign guests. The group was originally oriented towards the non-formal education of students for University of Latvia, but now the former students continue to participate in it after finishing studies, as well as all interested are involved, independently from former experience or study/work place.
Ensemble members regularly meet in 2,5-3 hour lessons twice a week, where they in the supervision of leaders- specialists carry out dance training lessons, learn and repeat dance and song repertoire. The lessons are rather intensive and during that time the participants do not have time for individual conversations, with things that are not related to the content of the lesson. Because of this the participants organize a creative camps twice a year - a common weekend outing with staying overnight, during which the participants socialize – in a non-formal atmosphere the participants, who in everyday life work in different fields, better know each other, talk about casual things, hobbies, do common activities (make food, plan leisure activities, etc.)- which is a typical teambuilding event and in perspective provides a better social environment, cooperation in the collective. This is very important, when planning group activities in concerts, festivals, long lasting concert journeys. Beside in the creative camp’s program there is given the possibility to gain additional knowledge, which extends the view of traditional culture. Local tradition holders are invited to introduce the specific places traditions, characteristic song repertoire; different handicraft skills are acquired- to make details for costumes or jewelry; to get acquainted with different folk traditional dances .
The event’s organizational (planning, agreeing on a place, reservation, catering, sleeping, etc.) tasks are done by the participants themselves (not the leaders), thus developing organizational skills. Also various lessons are led by the participants of the ensemble, using their skills and knowledge, which are connected with their professional work or hobbies.
Creative camp’s activity plan
Friday 22nd of September
19.00 Arrival in Lielvārdes culture house
20.00 Baltic Unit day celebration with local folklore ensemble “Josta”
Saturday 23rd of September
8.30- 9.30. Breakfast
9.30.-10.00 Morning waking up
10.00-11.00 Singing lesson
11.10-13.00 Dance description study and interpretation
Revise dances that are needed for tonight
14.00-15.30 Handicrafts (by Dace Gaile- beading ; by Rasa Roze- one needle wicker-; by Sandra Rozenblate- consultation about 20th century beginning costumes)
15.30-17.30. abroad guest (MusInc) master classes (for participants and local people)
17.30-18.00 Preparing the hall for the evening event
19.00 Evening with dances ( opened to the local people)
Sunday 24th of September
10.00-11.00 Cigun exercise lesson with Daci Gražuli
11.10- 12.30. Repetition of the new dances from the workshops and he descriptions
12.30- 13.30. Closing circle and discussions
14.30.-15.00. Organizing the space
15.00 Excursion to A. Pumpurs museum in Lielvārde
Detailed description of the most important events
Friday- Baltic Unit day celebration together with local folklore ensemble “Josta”.
In each creative camp’s beginning evening there is a non-formal event with preparation of a common meal, conversation and singing (including popular, non-folklore repertoire). During which the participants (especially the new ones) socialize, know each other better, and learn to cooperate. This time the event is more formal- celebrated was the national memorial day of Latvia and Lithuania together with the local folklore group. That determines the events song repertoire- patriotic Latvian and known Lithuanian songs by the fire. This time it involves to participate in an event with non-precise program ( and to quickly react to the situation and improvise), as well as to get to know both ensemble members, which cooperate a lot in this event.
abroad guest (MusInc) master classes (for participants and local people)
Saturday- Singing lesson
In the regular lessons the participants do some vocal exercises ad learn he song repertoire. In the creative camp It is possible to work more with vocal technique, develop each participant’s skills.
Dance description study and interpretation
The main theme of this camp. A chance for the participants to get to know real folklore dance choreographies descriptions and make movement interpretations. An opportunity to identify, which specific knowledge is required for a choreograph, how diverse can a dance description be interpreted, how important is the knowledge about dance style and characteristic aesthetics, to make a real dance or game after a description. The aim is to make comprehension about a choreographers (ensemble leader) work specifics and develop talents in participants, which can be later used in the further activity of the ensemble.
Handicrafts (by Dace Gaile- beading ; by Rasa Roze- one needle wicker-; by Sandra Rozenblate- consultation about 20th century beginning costumes)
Handicrafts are an active change from dance training and singing lessons. The participants socialize supporting each other in the work process. Also the opportunity to make costume details on their own.
An opportunity was used to learn various folk dances (English, Italian, Romanian, Hungarian) in the guidance of MusInc project specialists. This was a good chance for the participants to widen their perspective about different folk dance specifics, common and different features. To develop perception abilities, quickly acquire new material, also to improve English language skills (this lesson was lead in English).
Evening with dances ( opened to the local people)
After agreeing with the owner of the space- local municipality, the camp’s participants usually provide for the local people to be involved in common activities during the camp, as well as one concert type event. This time in the concert the local group “Josta” took part, whose concert experience until then was very little and this was a chance to improve it. The camp participants showed their program and the other ones they had learned in the camp from different countries. Despite the public’s presence in the event , its atmosphere was non-formal, decreasing the participants stress from a performing situation and more enjoying the participation.
Cigun exercise lesson
Exercises, during which is was possible to learn about cigun exercise systems principles and try it practically. New movement experience.
Closing circle and discussions
The camp participants discussed its process, evaluated the activities importance, what they had expected and what had they gained. What new activities and what different improvements would be necessary when organizing future camps.
Excursion to A. Pumpurs museum in Lielvārde
Camp’s participants always use the possibility to learn more about the place were the camp is organized. Local history, culture-history objects, nature objects, landscapes are visited every time. Lielvārde is an ethnographically peculiar region, also connected to various important culture personalities with whom the local museum offered to introduce.
Results, which were achieved in this (similarly also in others) camp is not precisely measurable. Participant number, activity amount, spectators or the created products are not the most important aim (although the known participants wish to participate in these events, investing their finances and free time shows the need for its necessity). The most important aim is for the ensemble participants to get to know each other better, which promotes the wish to actively participate in the ensemble and also relieves cooperation during regular training lessons, improves the microclimate in the ensemble, which is very important, when taking part in festivals, where travel is needed or in more complicated projects. Working in new, unusual environment, taking part in different activities lets the leader of the ensemble to better appreciate different skills and personality characteristics of the participants, which further leads to nomination of new tasks, in which the participants can realize themselves in the best possible way or take on the necessary responsibility.
Family folklore group “Lizda” - message and activity
“Lizda” is folklore group in Katlakalns, Ķekava municipality. This April it will celebrate its five years anniversary. This started as a children folklore group, but became family group as many parents wanted to participate. The group name “Lizda” is an old Latvian word for bird’s nest, which describes the group itself quite acc -urately. There are six to eight families involved, about twenty people, and have grown into a small, friendly community. Regularly only mothers take part in lessons, but fathers and sometimes grandparents take part also. Still, the main work is with children.
Leader of group is Laura Līcīte who grew up being a part of children folklore group herself, and now is a musician, teacher and student of ethnomusicology.
The main aim for this group is to find out and learn Latvian traditions, with the biggest emphasis on traditional music – singing, playing instruments (more or less traditional), learning different instrumental tunes. Also dancing, playing games, storytelling, guessing riddles, traditional handicrafts, learning about traditional costume and rituals are not forgotten. As half of repertoire is connected to specific time of year, it is important to learn why and how our ancestors celebrated solstices and other feasts, and what actions did they do. Only then we can understand the real meaning of songs, games and other kinds of intangible heritage.
Transformation from children group to a family group accents on specific social aspect – there are too few places where whole family can take part in their free time. At this moment, children in group are aged from few months to twelve years. There are two important benefits, next to knowledge of Latvian traditions. First, spending two evenings in the week meaningfully in a place where everyone of family can do what they like, whether it’s singing, dancing, or storytelling, with no need of good singing voice, sense of rhythm etc. (for example, you need to have a good voice to take part in choir or ensemble). This actually is a platform to develop these skills. Second, here every one learns how to function in a big differently-aged community, including helping youngest, playing games taking in consideration, that not everyone is as fast as they are and so on.
The group as a community not only shares their time together during the lessons and traditional celebrations, but also shares car rides, knowledge on handicrafts, household tips and exchange garden goods. Often participants for the celebrations open their own houses and invite everyone to cook, sing, dance and celebrate together.
Even though each lesson is different depending on repertoire, also participant mood and energy level is taken in consideration, the basic structure remains unchanged. You can read below short program of a lesson with some comments. Duration of lesson is 1,5 to 2 hours. During the lesson everyone is encouraged to take part in every action, but is not obligated to do so. Most of the time mothers do handicrafts (knitting, sewing etc.) while singing or listening while children learn playing instruments.
1. Greeting and opening of lesson (5 to 10 minutes). It includes organizing chairs for lesson and tea pot for break, greeting each and everyone, shorter or more detailed information what are we going to do this lesson. Discussion on topic, if needed.
2. Stretching and breathing exercises (10 to 15 minutes). Usually four to eight exercises. Most of them to prepare for singing or to raise energy level.
3. Playing instruments – first block flute (15 minutes), then kokle (Latvian psaltery-type instrument) (10-15 minutes). Start with repetition of known melody, continuing with new melody. Here you have to take in mind, that participant age and playing skills differs a lot. Usually we part in two groups – first the oldest and better skilled children learns the melody (or part of it) and goes to the next room to practice, meanwhile the youngest learn an easier melody or second voice. At the end everyone try to play together.
4. Singing exercises (5 minutes). Two to four exercises to prepare voice for singing and also to improve singing skills, for example singing in tune.
5. Singing (15 to 25 minutes). Usually we sing three to five songs. Less with new repertoire, more if repetition. We change repertoire depending on time of the year. We try to learn three to four new songs for each celebration of the year (solstices etc.). During singing we try different approaches – singing in groups, alone (usually for one verse), singing with movements to improve different skills. Most of the time there are no scores or words in front of singers or they appear on third lesson with this repertoire – they learn songs by hearing the teacher. It’s slow, but stays in long-term memory. Participants are allowed not to sing, if they don’t feel like to.
6. Short tea break (5 minutes). Although there is a break, tea is accessible all the time.
7. Dancing and playing games (20 to 30 minutes). There is a greater emphasis on traditional games, which include running, speaking, finding new pair, going a circle and repeating movements, but also we dance easy dances. Those who can play melodies of dances are encouraged to play their instruments. The same as songs there are two to three games we learn or play, which are specific for actual time of year. We always end the lesson with the same game.
· Sometimes lessons include: playing other instruments, storytelling, riddle guessing, handicrafts etc.